The Visitors & Residents Principle: in relation to Organisations

I was very taken by the concepts of visitors and residents. Dave White’s description of what a visitor is describes quite accurately what I feel, and how I relate to social media. I tend to use it in a goal oriented way, as a ‘box of tools’ which helps me get what I need whether it is to search blogs to find information on something I am working on, scan Twitter for topics of interest, or even look at Facebook to find out what my son is up to when away at university. I can also feel  uncomfortable about the publicness of social media and am reluctant to post my thoughts out there.

However, whilst I can relate to the visitors and residents analogy when talking about an individual’s relationship to social media, it took me a while to get my head around to applying the same concepts to organisations.

For example, the Library has got both a Facebook and a Twitter presence but can certainly only be described as a visitor. It is a way to post news about the library, give updates about service disruptions or upgrades and can be considered a relatively painless way to reach users if indeed we are able to reach some in this way. I remember feeling slightly uncomfortable when the library first went on Facebook, as it felt a bit like an embarrassing parent trying to be ‘cool’. Do students really want to be friends of the Library? With 73 friends on Facebook after a year, most of them staff rather than students, I am not convinced that we can ever be resident on Facebook. Can it ever catch on? And what would becoming a resident mean for an organisation?

To try to answer this question, I tried to think about organisations which could be considered as resident but the closer I came was thinking about a radio programme. I sometimes listen to ‘Saturday live’ on Radio 4. Throughout the programme which has different guests every week, the host mentions the Facebook page which has become an extension of the programme. Pictures and extra information about the guests are posted online, and the conversation can carry on until well after the programme has ended. Through Twitter, a constant flow of remarks and opinions can be aired during the programme and continued after it. Because of its Twitter and Facebook presence, the radio programme has become more than a simple radio programme. It has become a ‘social space’ where a community of listeners gather during and after the programme has ended. With a new show every week, it is possible to ‘keep feeding the machine’ without becoming banal and stale. So a radio show such as this one can become a digital resident because it has its own audience who are connected by the fact that they like the same programme. Social media gives the radio show ‘added value’ by creating a space where these ‘connected’ people can carry on enjoying the ambience of the show.

Now I can’t see this being possible for the Library because I don’t think that users of the library feel a connection between each other as users of the library. Why would they want to use the library as a social space when outside it? Even if it was possible, as Ian says in his blog post, it would require such time and effort because it would mean a bunch of committed staff being the voice of the library, starting conversations, giving the library personality. And what voice or multiple voices would the library have? In my view, an organisation cannot become a resident if it does not acquire a ‘personality’ or a ‘voice’. Because, why else would people want to engage with it?

This is why I think that it is possible for small units within bigger organisation to become residents e.g. the Saturday Live programme or the UCPDWEP course. For wider organisations e.g. the BBC, DMU, I can’t see how they can become anything else than visitors: using social media to provide updates and news but not as a social space.



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5 Responses to The Visitors & Residents Principle: in relation to Organisations

  1. Marie, I like the way you have thought about this. Analyzing another situation recognizing the key factors that drives its success and making distinctions between your own situation. i’ll think a bit more about what you’ve said. It feels like a challenge to identify ways that the library may have a more of a residential presence on facebook, on the other hand it may be that if it is indeed true that being resident is not feasible then it may be wiser to not waste resources pursuing that strategy.

    Good stuff, be back later with some more thoughts

  2. Sharon Laverick says:

    Really interesting take on this Marie, I agree completely about the Library on Facebook – guess most students will not really have reason to engage with it – although if they did could be really good alternative to e-mail for communicating with them re overdue or recalled books. We do have a problem at CF with students not looking at or using their e-mails so not getting the library communications – if social space could be used instead would be great. However, as you say, why would they want to be ‘friends’ in the first place? and how could the library be more resident? (and justify the time) – food for thought….

  3. kellyperrin says:

    It’s amazing to see so many different takes on the same subject. I feel that lots of area’s around DMU are setting up Facebook groups and Twitter accounts in order to keeping up with the Jones’ but they have no idea WHY they are doing it. HR are going down this route for recruitment purposes and we want to promote ourselves as THE place to come and work. This has lots of validity but I fear the next stage will be groups created so we can reach out to staff in the same way that the library is trying to reach students. Personally I don’t think that facebook or twitter would be the right way to go.

  4. Marie and Sharon,

    Been thinking about the Library and I think that there is no reason why the Library cannot be residential on facebook/twitter and have influence and impact. I’ll not say too much for now. Have a think over the next few weeks about what you could change to make it happen. Week three has some tasks that may give you something extra to think about in this regard

    Look at the example you gave Marie, Can you learn from that, can you adapt the approach in any way (can the library change). The library has so many resources and much to offer. Would you say the impetus for the library Facebook/Twitter strategy is coming from A Web 1.0 or Web 2.0 mentality?

  5. Lucy Mathers says:

    Have you compared what DMU library do with what Leicester Uni. do (e.g. @UoLDWL on Twitter). Also lots of librarians on Twitter, could you crowdsource their views on this?

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